New Mental Health Abortion Study is Misleading

By Ana Maria Dumitru, national chair for Medical Students for Life

The media jumped all over a study this week that claimed to show abortion had no negative effects on a woman’s mental health – except if she was denied an abortion. Headlines like “Study: Abortion Doesn’t Harm Women’s Mental Health, but Denying One Does” ran everywhere, but was that really the story?

We don’t think so.

Back in July, a much larger study – following over 8,000 women for 13 years – was published by Dr. D. Paul Sullins of Catholic University of America, and reported an opposite finding and received no media attention (surprise, surprise). The new study from the University of California-San Francisco only followed about 1,000 for five years.

The Sullins study (read our blog on it here) confirmed that even after controlling for over twenty possible variables, there’s still a clear, significant increase in the relative risk of mental health disorders for women who have abortions. And this is compared to women with any other pregnancy outcome (live birth or miscarriage).

For what it’s worth, the Sullins study isn’t even the first study to find a clear link between abortion and mental health disorders. Before Sullins, we had the Fergusson study from New Zealand and the Pederson study from Norway, among others.

A brand new documentary called Hush, produced by a pro-choice woman, sheds much-needed light on this topic and expertly walks viewers through the evidence that abortion is indeed harmful to the mental health of women. Abortion advocates are already trashing the film because the film so clearly presents the many dangers associated with abortion.

The UC-SF study is part of a larger effort, I believe, to normalize abortion in our society. Unfortunately, what pro-abortion activists fail to see is that women are still the ones losing here. When a woman in a crisis pregnancy finds herself faced with her choice of whether or not to abort her child, she deserves to know the truth about her options.

Instead, we’re seeing more of what happened at the Democratic National Convention, where abortion was framed as “the right choice” for “strong women.” Suddenly, the conversation is being shifted to question the pregnant woman and to deny her the reality of the consequences of her choices. So now, we’re telling pregnant women that if they’re really “strong,” they’ll choose abortion, and then if those women experience depression afterwards or dare to regret their abortion, it’s their own fault for not being strong enough to handle it.

What is the outcome of this frame-shift? It puts the responsibility entirely on individual pregnant women, and leaves them alone in the aftermath. The danger here is that our society will start stigmatizing the woman who regrets her choice to abort her child. After all, why would we invest resources in counseling women if there are no possible negative consequences of abortion? Then, that woman, in addition to being more at risk for mental health disorders, will also be more alone than ever before.